Differences Between Mares and Geldings

Dr. Nancy Diehl addresses common behavior differences between mares and geldings and their causes.

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Differences Between Mares and Geldings
A gelding might display stallionlike behavior toward a mare if she produces male-type hormones. | Photo: Thinkstock

Q: Do mares have behaviors that are specific to them and different from geldings?

A: The timing of this question is very interesting considering The Horse just published the results of a poll on preferred sex of horses! I thought the selected comments pointed to some common themes. Geldings evoke feelings of even-tempered dependability while those who favor mares invoke bonding, passion, and a special emotional attachment.

If you scour the Internet you’ll see the common wisdom is that geldings seem to have a more dependable reputation while mares are expected to have different behaviors and temperament depending upon where they are in their estrous cycle

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Prior to attending veterinary school, Dr. Nancy Diehl completed a master’s degree in animal science while studying stallion sexual behavior. Later, she completed a residency in large animal internal medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center and worked in equine practices in Missouri and Pennsylvania. Diehl also spent six years on faculty at Penn State, where she taught equine science and behavior courses and advised graduate students completing equine behavior research. Additionally, Diehl has co-authored scientific papers on stallion behavior, early intensive handling of foals, and feral horse contraception. Currently she is a practicing veterinarian in central Pennsylvania.

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